Baseball has many drills that players use to get better at fielding, hitting, and throwing. Many drills also help them improve their agility and reaction time. One of these drills is the game of pepper.
So, what is pepper in baseball?
Pepper involves a group of players standing in a circle where one is the batter, and the rest are fielders. One fielder starts with the ball and pitches it to the batter, who hits a ground ball to the fielders. Whoever catches the ball immediately tosses it to the batter, continuing the game.
This article will go into more detail on how pepper is played, how it got its name and the game’s rules. We’ll also explain the advantages and disadvantages of pepper, including why it’s banned in many ballparks.
What Is Pepper in Baseball?
Pepper is a game or warm-up exercise commonly played by baseball players, used during practice. In a game of pepper, one player starts with the ball as the pitcher, and another player is the batter. Other players are scattered around the pitcher, who are the fielders to begin the game.
For a game of pepper, there should be at least three players, two to field and one to bat, but there can be as many players fielding as you have or want.
The game starts when the pitcher throws the ball to the batter, and they hit a ground ball back out to the fielders. One of the fielders will field the ground ball and immediately pitch it back to the batter, and the game repeats itself.
The distance between the fielders and the batter is usually around 20 feet, so the batter can’t hit the ball too hard, so no one gets hurt.
While pepper is a fast-paced game, players shouldn’t throw or hit the ball too hard for the safety of the other players. And since pepper is so fast and kids may not have much control overthrowing or hitting the ball yet, it’s usually not the best game for little leaguers to play.
Why Is It Called Pepper in Baseball?
The name pepper may seem random at first. It comes from the motion of the batter “peppering” the other players in the game, similar to how one would pepper a dinner plate. The batter is sprinkling the ball out to the fielders like how pepper comes out of a pepper shaker onto a dinner plate.
A game of pepper starts with a group of players standing about 20 feet away from another player, who is the batter. One of the players in the group pitches the ball to the batter, who hits a ground ball to the fielders. If you’re just playing pepper as a drill or for fun, whoever catches the ball immediately pitches it back to the batter, and the game continues.
But you could also make pepper into a more competitive game by having the fielders stand in a line 20 feet from the batter. The game would start as normal, with the fielder in line tossing the ball to the batter; this continues until the fielder makes a mistake, whereupon the fielder would go to the back of the line and the game would continue with the next fielder.
The batter keeps hitting until he makes a mistake and doesn’t hit a ground ball. Usually, a mistake is a foul ball or a strike. A foul ball is usually anything outside of the line of fielders or behind the batter. When one of these mistakes is made by the batter, the player at the front of the line of fielders becomes the batter.
Or, if the batter hits a line drive or a pop-up, whichever fielder catches the ball becomes the new batter. The rules for changing batters can be altered to ensure everyone gets a chance to bat.
There is no limit to the number of players who can play in a game of pepper, and it’s a good drill since you can play it with fewer players than you would need for a game of baseball. There are many other benefits of playing pepper detailed in the next section.
Is Pepper a Good Baseball Drill?
Pepper has a lot of benefits to players, which makes it a good drill during practices.
First, pepper is a great game because it takes little space, so you can play it anywhere. Players are only 20 feet apart, so it can be played on the infield, outfield, or anywhere else without the need for special equipment.
As for benefits to the players, the game is pretty fast-paced, so the players’ hand-eye coordination is tested. The more they play, and the more intense the game gets, the more they’re able to develop their hand-eye coordination.
And, since the players are closer to the pitcher than during an actual game, about three times as close (60 feet in-game vs. 20 feet during pepper), their reaction time improves as well.
There are also benefits to playing pepper as a fielder because the balls come to them much quicker than in a game since they’re closer to the batter. This leads to improved reaction times and better footwork and agility.
Even if a game of pepper moves at a slower pace, or there are often mistakes made throughout the game, the drill will build players’ skills and confidence in the most fundamental parts of baseball.
Finally, a game of pepper can help players get prepared for a game by getting them alert and ready to field balls in the game. This will help fielders get loose and be ready for in-game situations.
Why Is Pepper Not Allowed in Baseball?
While pepper has some advantages, there are also reasons that pepper is not allowed to be played in many ballparks.
First, pepper is not allowed in ballparks due to the number of people in the vicinity. Pepper can get out of hand if lots of people play or if the ball is hit or thrown outside of the pepper circle. This poses a risk to fans, players, and anyone nearby who is not paying attention to the game of pepper.
Suppose someone does get injured as a result of playing pepper. In that case, the ballpark owners may be liable for any costs and lawsuits relating to the injury.
The cost to the ballpark owners also applies if anything in the ballpark is damaged, including the field itself. Whether the dirt and/or grass get damaged, overuse of the field can be costly to the owners.
Pepper is a fast-paced game with lots of movement. It can damage the field quicker than other baseball drills, especially when it’s played in the same spot, usually by the dugout.
“No Pepper” Sign
Signs that say “No Pepper” are common around ballparks, specifically near the dugouts and on-deck circles. These signs remind players that they can’t play pepper while on the field.
A game of pepper used to be common for players to do while they waited for their turn to bat, so they would play it near the dugout. This would affect the turf or grass right by the dugout since the game would constantly be played in the same place.
Fans also sat by the dugout where players would play pepper. The game was common before any protective nets were added as a safety measure. Hence, fans were at high risk if the ball was hit outside the game circle.
The damage to the field and the proximity to fans who may not be paying attention is why “No Pepper” signs are often seen near dugouts in baseball stadiums.